Saturday, November 01, 2008

Poetry, Language, and Propositions

The sort of truth that is effected in poetry and literature is not reducible to the register of truth that is captured in propositions and syllogisms. Poetry does something different than an argument; but that doesn't mean it isn't "true." Only a kind of propositional imperialism would reduce truth to the mode of assertion. . . . With this in mind, see poem below:


Anything Warm

Anything warm is warm.
Anything red has something to say.
Anything that drifts also smudges,
like secrets. That intense.
Anything loose is a message,
endless, and endlessly enticing.
Anything narrow gets there first.
Especially anger. Anything watery
pleads, though the story stays
buried under its layers, obscuring
whatever it is we've done
to deserve this. In the eternal life
of regret, Sunday looks back.
Monday is certainty,
with a mystery inside out.
Anything two days in a row
sings the same song I do
without repeating the first verse.
Because there is no return.
That seems dramatic, but likely.
Just look at the waves,
all moving in one direction.
It made Noah crazy!
Another day — hell, another
hour — he'd be ready
to wring that dove's neck.
What right did she have
to exhaustion, to twittery musings?
One declarative sentence
would be a relief.

--Wendy Mnookin

from The Moon Makes Its Own Plea
BOA Editions

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